You might find it difficult to get much work done when you’ve got Facebook open all day—doubly so if you’re anxiously waiting for someone to respond to you on Facebook Chat. If this sounds familiar, you’ll want to have a look at our first app. We’ll also take a look at a couple of note taking apps, then close things out with an alternative keyboard that’s actually pretty useful.
Goofy – Mac
It isn’t too hard to make the case for a Facebook Messenger client for the Mac—if anything, a Mac app makes more sense than the separate Messenger app on mobile. Considering that many people are using it as their main chat client, it’s stupid to have to keep windows that overlay content or even have Facebook open at all.
Enter Goofy for OS X.
The best thing about Goofy is that it’s simple: Its interface is clean and intuitive, and it doesn’t hog a bunch of resources in the background. Compare it to an open browser tab with actual Facebook, and it may save you some serious fan noise. Best of all? Goofy won’t cost you anything.
What’s Good: Native Facebook Messenger client for OS X.
What Sucks: It’s still Facebook.
Buy it? If you’re looking for a streamlined way to use Facebook Messenger, check out Groovy. Download it for free from the developer’s website.
Alternote – Platform
I like Evernote a lot: It’s a great way to keep everything from writing projects to your recipes organized. However, I don’t do a lot of work directly in the Evernote app—it’s a bit too busy and cluttered to make a decent working environment. Instead, I’ll draft in Hemingway or Drafts and then send what I’ve written over to Evernote once I am done.
But Alternote on the Mac makes Evernote a lot more pleasing to the eye. It’s very minimal—everything is mostly text—and view options are fairly limited. You can set a background for the notebook list, you can choose from a limited set of fonts and sizes, and whether the app is in day or night mode…and that’s about it. This may be restrictive to some people, but it really gets the more fiddly aspects of Evernote out of the way. It reminds me of super-simple note-taking apps like NVAlt, except you can get at all of your Evernote data.
While I am a huge Evernote fan, this app may replace the Evernote app’s place in my Dock. Evernote’s app may be more powerful, but I think that I can get more actual work done through Alternote. It limits your options in a lot of ways, but your data and web clippings are all intact. Alternote is still in beta, but it’s already nicely polished and it’s ready to use now.
What’s Good: Minimal design. Loads and syncs with Evernote more quickly than Evernote’s own app.
What Sucks: Might be a bit much for casual users.
Buy it? If you love Evernote and minimal text editors, Alternote is the app for you. Check out the beta at the developer’s website.
Letterspace – iOS/Mac
Letterspace is another super-simple note-taking option worth considering. Unlike Alternote, Letterpress doesn’t sync with Evernote, but it does come in both iOS and OS X flavors. And if you enable iCloud storage, Letterspace gives you an NVAlt-style note service across all your devices.
The app uses a novel hashtag- and mention-centric organization scheme: You don’t add tags in a traditional sense; instead, you can type Twitter-style hashtags and mentions (contacts, basically) directly into your notes, and the app will group your notes based on this information. Organizing notes in this manner it isn’t for everyone, but if you rely on tags and searches to find things, Letterspace might do the trick.
The Letterspace app for iPad features a specialized toolbar with quick-access buttons for inserting parentheses and other special characters. You can also use that bar to easily move the cursor, or to place quotation marks or parentheses around selected text, so it’s pretty handy. I wish that it included additional Markdown characters, but Letterspace‘s shortcuts bar is one of the best tools of its kind that I’ve used. The app also includes a handy text-only To-do list, but this functionality relies on a couple of characters that aren’t built into the iPad apps’ shortcut bar.
Letterspace takes a good middle-ground approach as far as in-app purchases go—you get a functional app for free, but you pay for any extras that you want. For instance, you can try out all of the themes for free, but to actually use anything but the default theme, you’ll need to pay up.
What’s Good: Functional and clever shortcut bar on iOS. Good balance of free and paid features.
What Sucks: Shortcut bar could use more Markdown symbols. Organization scheme isn’t for everyone. No export for Markdown text. Missing to-do list characters in shortcut bar.
Emergent – Web
Emergent is the kind of site that news junkies will love: It’s a real time rumor tracker ran out of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, and it might come in handy the next time you need to debunk a preposterous story your friend from high school shared on Facebook.
Emergent will tell you that the story about Tom Brokaw calling for Brian Williams to be fired was false. You can also find out that a Roomba started the world’s most futile robot uprising in South Korea. Each story you click on shows you the number of sites that have reported the story, as well as the number of Emergent users that have shared the story to Facebook and/or Twitter.
Since Emergent relies on various sources to confirm/disprove stories, many of the stories end up under the unsatisfying banner of “Unverified.” (Stupid reality; be more entertaining!) Still, if you just want to find which viral news story is total BS, Emergent is a good place to start.
What’s Good: Easy way to dig through the news and see what’s been debunked or confirmed.
What Sucks: It’s shocking to see how many viral sources merely repeat unconfirmed information. (Could you imagine what it’d be like if Emergent tracked Apple rumors?)
Buy it? If you’re a news junkie, or just want to see if that latest “shocking” discovery on Facebook is true, check out Emergent.
Wordboard – iPhone
Text Expander is the gold standard for text snippets on iOS and Mac. It’s also really complex—and kind of expensive. Apple provides some built-in support for text shortcuts, but it’s basically just glorified autocorrect. Wordboard ends up somewhere in the middle: It isn’t as customizable as Text Expander, but it will let you add quick-access keys for various email address, those obscure emoticons you found on Reddit, and even chains of emojis. And once you unlock the pro upgrade for $1.99, you can import hashtags from Twitter and Instagram, giving you one-tap access to the hashtags you use most.
What’s Good: Simple snippet keyboard. Easy to set up.
What Sucks: Switching to and from this keyboard is a bit of a pain, but this is more an iOS issue than anything.
Buy it? If you’re interested in text snippets and want a simple approach, check out Wordboard. Download it from the App Store for free.